After Encouragement from Murphy, Startups Meet Investors at November EDA Founders & Funders Event, Part 1

At the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) Founders & Funders event last week, 22 startups connected with 15 investors for one-on-one 10-minute meetings. The event took place for the first time at the offices of Newark Venture Partners, in Newark. An EDA spokesperson said that the organization would be rotating future Founders & Funders events around various venues in New Jersey, as a way of highlighting them.

Governor Phil Murphy set the tone for the event with remarks that encouraged the startup ecosystem in New Jersey. “The interplay among entrepreneurs and investors is key to spurring the growth of emerging companies, and is a critical component of our vision to make New Jersey the State of Innovation,” he said.

“New Jersey Founders & Funders is a prime example of the Garden State’s innovation ecosystem in action, and we look forward to hearing about subsequent meetings and partnerships that result from today’s event.”

Gov. Murphy addresses the crowd at Newark Venture Partners offices | Esther Surden

Kathleen Coviello, vice president, technology & life sciences investments at the EDA, explained to the crowd the programs offered by the state that are designed to help invigorate the startup ecosystem, including the new NJ Ignite program, which supports entrepreneurs by providing grants for rent, while providing collaborative workspaces a way to attract new tenants.

The real meat of last Thursday’s program, however, was the founder/investor meetings. For most of the startups, this was a good way to see a lot of potential investors ‒ all in one meeting. For the investors, this was a way to see some pre-vetted startups that could one day merit a second look.

Here are some of the tech startup founders we spoke to at Founders & Funders. We’ll have more in follow-up stories.

Babak Pasdar, Ali Puchala, Thad Eidman of Acreto | Esther Surden

Acreto (Babak Pasdar, Thad Eidman)

Acreto (Jersey City) addresses security for the internet of things. Cofounder and CEO/CTO Babak Pasdar told us that, unlike enterprise technologies, IoT devices are not protected by firewalls or local security infrastructure. “They [IoT devices] have privileged relationships with all kinds of applications in the cloud, so what we do is we secure distributed and mobile internet-of-things technologies, regardless of what public or private network they are on, from the cloud.”

It doesn’t matter what type of technology it is, he noted, nor how much resources it has or if it is a $5 dollar sensor or a $20 million mining machine. Acreto delivers uniform, consistent security across all of these different distributed platforms. The company was founded in 2017, and is now in the alpha stage of its product development. Acreto expects to go to market in Q1 2019.

We asked Thad Eidman, cofounder and COO/CFO, how the meetings with investors went. “I think the meetings were helpful for us to get our message out and for people to come to know what we are doing. The challenge, of course, is trying to find the funding source that is a match for what you are trying to do, the stage you are in and the particular vertical you participate in.”

You have to meet quite a few people, he added. “For example, we just met with Edison Partners. We are too early for Edison right now, but we’ll start that relationship rolling.”

Sushmita Chatterjee, CEO of Learnroll | Esther Surden

Learnroll Immerse (Sushmita Chatterjee)

Learnroll Immerse  (Princeton) is enabling augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for education and training for STEM students in high school and early college. The company has an “immersive experience center,” which is a physical location where training and education using AR and VR takes place, and it’s also working with educators to provide ClassImmerse, a cross-platform AR and VR learning lab for schools.

“We are initially focused on physics, chemistry and biology,” said Sushmita Chatterjee, founder and CEO/CTO. “One of the most important things about us is that we are trying to align with the new standards for scientists called the ‘Next Generation Science Standards.’” As Learnroll Immerse aligns with these standards, it also is working with private schools, university departments of education and New Jersey state agencies to ensure that science curricula become more interesting. Chatterjee said that one of the reasons she is doing this is to entice more girls into STEM careers.

Chatterjee said this was her first time pitching. She thought that her meetings went well, and she also got some feedback about how to change her executive summary so that investors will be more interested. She also got some advice about what items she should emphasize when she talks to investors.

John J. Novak of Scanifly | Esther Surden

Scanifly (John J. Novak)

Scanifly (Hightstown) founder and CEO John J. Novak explained that Scanifly is a software platform for the solar energy industry.  “Our customers are using the platform to assess and design solar installations using drone data.” Basically, he said, a solar company goes to a potential solar installation site and maps the site with a drone. They then upload the data, via an SD card, to Scanifly’s website, and “from there we process that data to create a high-definition 3-D model.” The solar company or designer can then assess the design using a virtual replica of the property in question. “There is a shading analysis tool that exports a shade report, so they can see where the best places are to place modules,” as well as other solar-specific analytics tools.

Novak noted that the company is located in Hightstown, but is “currently looking for an office in the North Jersey area, close to New York.” He said that his meetings with investors went well. “We got lots of advice, although some investors thought we could be a little bit early for fundraising.” But he added that a couple of investors asked him to schedule follow-up meetings.

Startups that want to participate in a future Founders & Funders event should apply here.

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